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Article Published: 19 Jan 2022

Supporting Women in Key Artistic Leadership Roles

Establishing a working relationship with an opera company is no easy feat. For women working in artistic roles, the challenge is even greater: A survey of recent opera seasons shows that women make up less than 30 percent of the directors and less than 15 percent of the conductors working on American opera productions.

To work toward righting this imbalance, OPERA America awards Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors twice annually. These grants encourage companies to venture beyond their typical pool of artists and seek out women to work with their organization for the first time. For the second-ever cycle of this program, grants totaling $32,000 were awarded to nine opera companies to subsidize as much as 50 percent of the artist’s fee. Recipients will lead two operas from the 1700s, one musical-theater work from the 1950s, and five works written since 1991, including one world premiere. All performances will take place in the first six months of 2022.

The third cycle of Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors will open this winter for productions scheduled from July 1 through December 31, 2022. Opera Grants for Women Stage Directors and Conductors are generously supported by the Marineau Family Foundation.


Cara Consilvio
Stage director for I Give You My Home (Beth Wiemann)

A director and producer of opera, theater, and film, Consilvio has directed Il trovatore for Opera in the Heights, Scalia/Ginsburg for Chautauqua Opera, a chamber opera season for Opera Grand Rapids, and the world premieres of Our Trudy for the Ad Astra Music Festival and The Leader and Kassandra for Opera in the Heights.


Shannon R. Davis
Stage director for Missing (Brian Current/Marie Clements)

Davis is a director, performer, and community organizer whose ancestral homeland is Wisconsin. She is in the Cal Shakes Artist Circle, a company member of In the Margin, and the director of Community Connections at American Conservatory Theater. She holds an M.F.A. in directing and acting from UW-Madison.


Nataki Garrett
Stage director for The Central Park Five (Anthony Davis/Richard Wesley)

Garrett is the artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the largest theater-producing organizations in the U.S., and is widely recognized as an innovative and influential arts leader. Across her career, Garrett has fostered new work, having directed and produced several world premieres of vital contemporary theater.


Jeri Lynne Johnson
Conductor for Agrippina (George Frideric Handel/Vincenzo Grimani)

Johnson is the founder and artistic director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, which serves as a model for 21st-century American orchestras by combining artistic excellence with cultural diversity and meaningful community engagement. She made history as the first Black woman to win an international conducting prize when she was awarded the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship.


Paula Nava Madrigal
Conductor for Frida (Robert Xavier Rodriguez/Hilary Blecher/Migdalia Cruz)

Madrigal is a Mexican American conductor passionate about classical music and Latinx culture. She is the artistic director of Orquesta Northwest and conductor of the Ballard Civic Orchestra. As a cellist, teaching artist, and conductor, she has focused on providing classical music experiences that promote inclusion and intercultural understanding between Mexico and the United States.


Crystal Manich
Stage director for West Side Story (Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim)

Puerto Rican director Manich is an Emmy Award-nominated creative leader whose works for stage and screen have been seen across the United States, Argentina, and Australia. She recently directed a multi-cam livestream of La hija de Rappaccini for Chicago Opera Theater, for which she has been nominated for a regional Emmy.


Claron McFadden
Conductor for Desdemona (Toni Morrison/Nina Simone)


American soprano McFadden has appeared on many of the world’s leading opera stages, including the Dutch National Opera, Glyndebourne, the Barbican, La Fenice, La Monnaie, and the Vlaamse Opera. She has been a theater maker since 2009, working as both a stage director and conductor.


Judith Yan
Conductor for Orfeo (Claudio Monteverdi/Alessandro Striggio)

Born in Hong Kong, Canadian conductor Yan has enjoyed a career in opera, ballet, and symphony that has taken her to major companies in Europe, Asia, and North America. She has also held staff conductor positions at San Francisco Opera, Canadian Opera Company, and the National Ballet of Canada, and is currently the principal conductor of Opera on the Avalon.